Steps and Tips for Creating a Family Photo Wall Display

The Rest / Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

For more posts like these, please visit my new blog, Creating This Life.

A family photo display is a unique and affordable way to create artwork for a large wall. It’s an interesting alternative to mass-produced artwork and you’re sure to enjoy it more too.

I resisted creating a photo wall for a long time, however, because I was intimidated. The picture part was pretty easy, but what about the frames? What kind should I use? How would I lay them out? And how would it look when I was done?

But a couple of years ago, I took the plunge, and found that I loved both the process and the result. Here’s the method I used to create my display:

  1. Collect the frames. Start with what you already have. Don’t worry about the color or finish (see tips below), just collect.
  2. Choose photos to go into the frames.
  3. Create your display on a flat surface first. I used my dining room table, but a floor will do. Just make sure it’s out of the way so you can leave it and come back to it.
  4. Using cheap paper (butcher paper, old wrapping paper, etc.) trace each frame and roughly cut it out. These will become the templates you’ll use when moving the display to the wall.
  5. Recreate the layout you have on a table or floor by hanging the templates on the wall. Use painter’s tape to hang the templates so you don’t damage the wall.
  6. Play with the paper templates until you get the arrangement just like you want it.
  7. Start replacing the templates with actual pictures, one by one, and watch your display form.


Frames are easy to spray paint so you can use what you already have.

Not everything in your display has to be a photo. Mixing it up will make it more interesting.

Have the outside of your frames create a box or rectangle and then fill in with other frames.

  • A wall display needs a unifying theme. If you’ve got a good eye, you can probably tell what frames/photos will work well together. If you aren’t so confident, use a “cheat” like I did: make all the frames one color.
  • Frames are E.A.S.Y. to spray paint so don’t reject a frame you already have because it’s the wrong color or finish. Paint it.
  • Include a variety of frame sizes and shapes.
  • Get creative with the photos you choose. You don’t have to have a wall of all formal portraits, unless that’s what you want. Throw in candid shots and some old family photos if you have them. I even included silhouettes in mine.
  • Include non-photo elements for interest. I used a large letter ‘M’, for our last name. (It was brown originally so it got spray painted too.) And two of the frames I used had ribbon hangers so I bought hooks to hang them from. I treated the whole thing (frame, ribbon, and hook) as one photo when laying out the display.
  • Here’s another “cheat” for choosing a layout for the frames: have the outside of the frames form a large rectangle. Then fill in the inside of the rectangle.
  • DON’T STRESS! (Yes, I’m yelling.) You can make changes after the frames are up (you don’t want to know how many little holes are behind my pictures) and the frames don’t need to be perfectly spaced for the display to look terrific. Have fun with it!

Have you created a family photo wall? What tricks and tips can you share?

10 Replies to “Steps and Tips for Creating a Family Photo Wall Display”

  1. This might be just the inspiration I need to finish my photo wall! I started one up the stairway, and I can never seem to finish it. I, too, get hung up on the perfect set of coordinating frames. Luckily, I found a collection of black frames I really like at Michael’s.

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